Speaker Edelstein Criticized for 'Belittling' Knesset at Shimon Peres' Funeral

Israeli lawmakers from across the aisle say Yuli Edelstein should have invited opposition leader Isaac Herzog to eulogize Peres and done more to prevent the boycott of Arab MKs.

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein at the funeral of Shimon Peres, September 30, 2016.
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein at the funeral of Shimon Peres, September 30, 2016.Credit: Emil Salman
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Knesset members from both the coalition and opposition have criticized Speaker Yuli Edelstein for what they said was his "belittling of the status of the Knesset" during the funeral of former president Shimon Peres last week.

Many Knesset members were irked at being unable to attend the wreath-laying ceremony in the Knesset plaza last Thursday and at being seated far from the podium during the eulogies for Peres at Mount Herzl on Friday.

There was also criticism of Edelstein's failure to invite Opposition leader Isaac Herzog to speak at the Friday ceremony and of what the MKs said was his failure to publicly coax members of the Joint List into attending the ceremony.

"The fact that MKs were effectively distanced from the events did not bring honor to the Knesset," said one Zionist Union MK who asked to remain anonymous.

"The disrespect shown to Herzog was unnecessary, though it's not an issue on which we need to confront the bereaved family."

In a detailed letter sent to Edelstein on Wednesday, MK Oren Hazan (Likud) summed up the disquiet felt by many Knesset members over the funeral arrangements.

"You should have made your voice heard and insisted on appropriate Knesset representation, for the Opposition as well, at an event which, if only for a moment, united the nation," Hazan wrote.

Regarding the boycott of the funeral by Arab MKs, Hazan accused Edelstein of "not doing anything to call them to order and exercise your authority and influence. Even if you couldn't force them to attend the funeral, I would have expected you, at the very least, to invite them to your office in an attempt to influence them."

The only speaker from Israel and the world who mentioned the Knesset and the presence of the people's representatives at the funeral was United States President Barack Obama, Hazan said.

MK Sheli Yechimovich (Zionist Union) supported Hazan's criticism, writing on Twitter that "he was right for a change."

She described Edelstein as a Speaker who "deals with honor and his own glorification and doesn't take the Knesset into account.  Neither in issues of substance nor in trivial matters."

The Speaker's bureau declined to comment.

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